Academic Achievement, Other Educational Factors, and Violent Behavior

As we outlined in Chapter 2, school plays a tremendous role in the life of children in the United States and around the world. Because attending school is nearly universal, educational factors have the potential for an enormous impact on society as a whole. If school has an influence on antisocial behavior, beneficial or adverse, it is a particularly important area to study for its policy implications.

A quick look at the empirical literature affirms that academic problems are predictably linked with antisocial behavior, but so are other school factors. Measures of academic achievement and school attachment have also been associated with general delinquency in many studies, across a variety of samples. (e.g., Anderson, Holmes, & Ostresh, 1999; Bernburg & Thorlindsson, 1999; Bird et al., 2006). Farrington and Loeber (1999) list low school achievement as one of the correlates of juvenile delinquency with “transatlantic replicability.” Academic failure and low bonding to school have also been identified as risk factors for violent behavior in multiple reviews (e.g., Borduin & Schaeffer, 1998; Hawkins et al., 1998; Huizinga et al., 2003). These reviews do not clarify whether school factors are associated with violence, when their association with general delinquency is held constant.

In this chapter, we hypothesize that school factors might be used to distinguish violent from nonviolent offenders. We will first discuss a series of specific school factors and the reasoning for their possible association (or lack thereof) with violence, and then we will present the search criteria and findings from our review.

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